Tonight, a special election in Acadiana gave the GOP its 55th member in the Louisiana House. The fact that a Republican would win was not in doubt; there were two things, however, which were noteworthy about this election:
(1) No Democrat filed to run in the special election – in a district that once gave Bobby Jindal only 34% of the vote in his first gubernatorial run in 2003;
(2) This was another race (the Jonathan Perry Senate victory was the first one) where the TEA Party both endorsed and lent organizational muscle to one of the candidates. In this case, the beneficiary was Republican Bob Hensgens, the Mayor of Gueydan. This was a hotly contested race that Hensgens won 52-48%, in a 24% voter turnout. What were the components of the Hensgens victory over former Kaplan Mayor Linda Hardee ?
(1) Unlike the Perry race, the early vote didn’t affect the ultimate outcome. Though Hensgens carried the early vote in both parishes with 54%, he also received 52% of the vote of those who voted on Election Day;
(2) A strong (69%) Cameron Parish vote helped Hensgens win, as he lost Vermilion Parish (where 85% of the vote was cast) by about 50 votes;
(3) Each candidate benefitted equally from strong hometown support. Hardee got 65% of the Kaplan vote, or a 547 vote margin, while Hensgens’ whopping 86% of the Gueydan vote gave him a 564 vote margin;
(4) What really helped Hensgens was the fact that he lost Abbeville by 15 votes. This statement would seem not to make sense on the surface until you do a detailed data analysis and realize that the town has a noticeable black minority that went nearly unanimously for Hardee (we estimate that she got 80% of the black vote). Hensgens, however, was able to stay competitive in Abbeville by corralling 94% of the vote that Jonathan Perry received (and about 75% of the Vitter vote) in the more conservative precincts in Abbeville.
The partisan composition of the Louisiana House is now 55 Republicans, 46 Democrats, and 4 Independents. The Louisiana Senate now has 22 Republicans and 17 Independents.
This is also the last race that will be run under the existing lines (assuming, of course, that the Justice Department approves the new lines), which are shown below. The redrawn district is similar to the existing district, but portions of northern Vermilion have been added to the district, as well as three precincts in Calcasieu Parish with about 4,500 people. The political impact of these changes was negligible.